Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Salvatore Quasimodo (Italy, 1901-1968)

Enemy of Death

(For Rossana Sironi)

You should not have
ripped out your image
taken from us, from the world,
a portion of beauty.
What can we do
we enemies of death,
bent to your feet of rose,
your breast of violet?
Not a word, not a scrap
of your last day, a No
to earth’s things, a No
to our dull human record.
The sad moon in summer,
the dragging anchor, took
your dreams, hills, trees,
light, waters, darkness,
not dim thoughts but truths,
severed from the mind
that suddenly decided,
time and all future evil.
Now you are shut
behind heavy doors
enemy of death.

Who cries?
You have blown out beauty
with a breath, torn her,
dealt her the death-wound,
without a tear
for her insensate shadow’s
spreading over us.
Destroyed solitude,
and beauty, failed.
You have signalled
into the dark,
inscribed your name in air,
your No
to everything that crowds here
and beyond the wind.
I know what you were
looking for in your new dress.
I understand the unanswered question.
Neither for you nor us, a reply.
Oh, flowers and moss,
Oh, enemy of death.
(translator unknown)

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Luigi Pirandello (Italy, 1867-1936)

The following is a scene from Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author.

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Grazia Deledda (Italy, 1875-1936)

Grazia Deledda (Italy, 1875-1936)

Here are the opening paragraphs of Deledda’s novel Cenere (Ashes), published in 1904, and below is footage from the silent-film movie based on the novel: It was the night of Midsummer Eve. Oli came forth from the white-walled Cantoniera on the Mamojada road, and hurried away across the fields. She was fifteen, well-grown and beautiful, with very large, very bright, feline eyes of greenish grey, and a sensuous mouth of which the cleft lower lip suggested two ripe cherries. She wore a red petticoat and stiff brocade bodice sustaining and defining her bosom; from the red cap tied under her prominent chin, issued two braids of glossy black hair twisted over her ears. This hair-dressing and the picturesque costume gave the girl an almost Oriental grace. Her fingers were heavily ringed, and she carried long streamers of scarlet ribbon, with which to “sign the flowers of St John,” that is, to mark those bunches of mullein, thyme, and asphodel which she must pick tomorrow at dawn for the compounding of charms and drugs. True, even were the signing omitted, there was small danger of anyone’s touching Oil’s selected plants; the fields round the Cantoniera, where she lived with her father and her little brothers, were completely deserted. Only one tumble-down house was in sight, emerging from a field of corn like a rock out of a green lake.

images2Everywhere in the country round, the wild Sardinian spring was on its death-bed; the flowers of the asphodel, the golden balls of the broom were dropping; the roses showed pale in the thickets, the grass was already yellow; a hot odour of hay perfumed the heavy air. The Milky Way and the distant splendour of the horizon, which seemed a band of far-off sea, made the night clear as twilight. The dark blue heaven and its stars were reflected in the scanty waters of the river. On its bank, Oil found two of her little brothers looking for crickets.
by Grazia Deledda,
translated by Helen Hester Colvill

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George Bernard Shaw (Ireland, 1856-1950)

George Bernard Shaw (Ireland, 1856-1950)

Below is a scene from My Fair Lady, based on Shaw’s play Pygmalion, published in 1913:

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Giosuè Carducci (Italian, 1835-1907)

Giosuè Carducci (Italian, 1835-1907)

At the Station One Autumn Morning

Oh how those lamps are pursuing each other
Under the tall trees lazily yonder,
On miry road sleepily spreading
Their light through branches dripping with raindrops.
Plaintively, shrilly and stridently whistles
The steam belched from the engine near by. Leaden
The sky, and the morning autumnal
Like a huge phantom over all hovers.
Whither and to what goal do these people
Hasten along, closely muffled and silent
To the dark cars? To what unknown sorrows,
To what vain torments of hope long deferred?
Thou, pensive Lydia, givest thy ticket
To the swift sharp clip of the guard; thou givest
Thy best years to Time, the pursuer,
Thy moments enjoyed, thy remembrances.
By the side of the black train inspectors,
Black hooded, pass along coming and going,
Like shadows; dim lanterns they carry
And long rods of iron, and the iron
Brakes rapidly tested like a knell sounding,
Long and lugubrious, while a sad echo
From the depths of the soul responded
Like a spasm of pain in its dullness.
Then the doors harshly slammed to in the shutting
Seem insults; mocking, the call for departure,
The last summons, sounds rapid alarm;
On the panes great raindrops are beating.
Lo! of his metallic soul now become conscious,
The monster shudders, snorts, pants and opening
Eyes of flame, hurls into the darkness
Long whistles loud, space shrilly challenging,
His hideous length trailing starts the fell monster,
Bears away my love with his wings wide flapping.
Ah, that pale face and farewell flutter
Of veil vanishing into the darkness.
O gentle face softened in roseate pallor!
O eyes, ye stars that are with peace all radiant!
O pure white brow, by locks abundant
Shaded, in gracious attitude inclining!
Life thrilled the warm air when thine eyes shone on me;
And in thy smile hot summer palpitated,
And the young sun of June delighted
In bestowal of luminous kisses
Between the clustering chestnut curls’ warm shadow,
On the tender bloom of the soft cheek; brighter
Than any sun my dreams surround the
Fair form with an aureole of glory.
Now under the rain and into the dark mist
I return, and fain with them would I mingle:
I reel as one drunk, and I touch me
Lest I too might be naught but a phantom.
O what a falling of leaves never-ending,
Chilly, silent, heavy on my soul; methinks
That the world around me for ever
Has become all-pervading November.
Better for him who has lost sense of being,
Better this gloom, better this mist low lowering,
I would, I would lay me down in a
Dullness of calm that should last for ever.

Alla stazione in una mattina d`autunno

Oh quei fanali come s’inseguono
accidiosi là dietro gli alberi,
tra i rami stillanti di pioggia
sbadigliando la luce su ‘l fango!
Flebile, acuta, stridula fischia
la vaporiera da presso. Plumbeo
il cielo e il mattino d’autunno
come un grande fantasma n’è intorno.
Dove e a che move questa, che affrettasi
a’ carri foschi, ravvolta e tacita
gente? a che ignoti dolori
o tormenti di speme lontana?
Tu pur pensosa, Lidia, la tessera
al secco taglio dài de la guardia,
e al tempo incalzante i begli anni
dài, gl’istanti gioiti e i ricordi.
Van lungo il nero convoglio e vengono
incappucciati di nero i vigili
com’ombre; una fioca lanterna
hanno, e mazze di ferro: ed i ferrei
freni tentati rendono un lugubre
rintocco lungo: di fondo a l’anima
un’eco di tedio risponde
doloroso, che spasimo pare.
E gli sportelli sbattuti al chiudere
paion oltraggi: scherno par l’ultimo
appello che rapido suona:
grossa scroscia su’ vetri la pioggia.
Già il mostro, conscio di sua metallica
anima, sbuffa, crolla, ansa, i fiammei
occhi sbarra; immane pe ‘l buio
gitta il fischio che sfida lo spazio.
Va l’empio mostro; con traino orribile
sbattendo l’ale gli amor miei portasi.
Ahi, la bianca faccia e ‘l bel velo
salutando scompar ne la tenebra.
O viso dolce di pallor roseo,
o stellanti occhi di pace, o candida
tra’ floridi ricci inchinata
pura fronte con atto soave!
Fremea la vita nel tepid’aere,
fremea l’estate quando mi arrisero;
e il giovine sole di giugno
si piacea di baciar luminoso
in tra i riflessi del crin castanei
la molle guancia: come un’aureola
piú belli del sole i miei sogni
ricingean la persona gentile.
Sotto la pioggia, tra la caligine
torno ora, e ad esse vorrei confondermi;
barcollo com’ebro, e mi tocco,
non anch’io fossi dunque un fantasma.
Oh qual caduta di foglie, gelida,
continua, muta, greve, su l’anima!
Io credo che solo, che eterno,
che per tutto nel mondo è novembre.
Meglio a chi ‘l senso smarrì de l’essere,
meglio quest’ombra, questa caligine:
io voglio io voglio adagiarmi
in un tedio che duri infinito.
Translated by Emily Tribe

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Fifth Poem

At the cold taste of rennet apple
on my tongue, through my whole mouth
that sucks and waits,
the bunch of flowers returns to my eyes

motionless at the damp weather of autumn,
suspended at my longing — a leafy bough
of green dear to Vortumnus
spread out in a milk basin.

Rennet apple that I bite
in this festival rest,
adagio, like a memory
of manifest sweetness.

One is enough for me: in the taste
of that instant, of that bite,
I see again in the oblique shade of the trunk
the blue pass like a bright discourse.

I abandon all on one side.
As son of earth and heir
of indisputable part,
the God poorly believed in sees me.

Mine the leaf I pull away scenting
my fingers — but more the descent
that I will remake, in a little while, thinking
about myself, under the hanging air.

Mine all the fields, in that taste
that at its height destroys and unmakes itself,
mine the odor, the stench
of the indefinite immensity.

Quinta poesia

Al freddo sapore di mela renetta,
in lingua, per tutta la bocca
che succhia ed aspetta,
ritorna negli occhi la ciocca

immobile al dolco d’autunno,
sospesa alla voglia — una frasca
di verde cognate a Vertunno
distesa nel latte di vasca.

Mela renetta che mordo,
in questo riposo di festa,
adagio, come un ricordo
di dolcezza manifesta.

Una mi basta: nel gusto
di quell’instante, di quell morso,
rivedo all’ombra oblique del fusto
passare il blù come un chiaro discorso.

Tutto abbandono in disparte.
Figliolo di terra ed erede
d’incontrastabile parte
il Dio mal creduto mi vede.

Mia la foglia che strappo odorando
le dita — ma più la discesa
che rifarò, tra poco, pensando
a me, sotto l’aria che pesa.

Mia tutta, la campagna, in quell sapore
che maturamente si distrugge e si disfa,
mio l’odore, l’afrore
dell’imprecisa immensità.
by Giovanni Papini (1881-1956)
translated by Roberta Payne

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The Cats Will Know

The rain will still fall
on your sweet pavements,
a light rain
like a breath or a footstep.
The breeze and the dawn will still
flower lightly
as though under your footstep,
when you come back in.
Between flowers and window sills
the cats will know.

There will be other days,
there will be other voices.
You will smile alone.
The cats will know.

You will hear aged words,
tired words and empty ones
like the costumes put aside
after yesterday’s merrymaking.
You, too, will gesture.
You will reply words —
face of springtime —
you, too, will gesture.

The cats will know,
face of springtime;
and the light rain,
the dawn color of hyacinth,
that rend the heart
of him who no longer hopes for you,
and the sad smile
that you smile alone.
There will be other days,
other voices and awakenings.
We will suffer in the dawn,
face of springtime.

I gatti lo sapranno

Ancora cadrà la pioggia
sui tuoi dolci selciati,
una pioggia legerra
come un alito o un passo.
Ancora la brezza e l’alba
fioriranno leggere
come sotto il tuo passo,
quando tu rientrerai.
Tra fiori e davanzali
I gatti lo sapranno.

Ci saranno altri giorni,
ci saranno altre voci.
Sorriderai da sola.
I gatti lo sapranno.
Udrai parole antiche,
parole stanche e vane
come I costume smessi
delle feste di ieri.
Farai gesti anche tu.
Risponderai parole —
viso di primavera,
farai gesti anche tu.

I gatti lo sapranno,
viso di primavera;
e la pioggia leggera,
l’alba color giacinto,
che dilaniano il cuore
di chi più non ti spera,
son oil triste sorriso
che sorridi da sola.
Ci saranno altri giorni,
altre voci e risvegli.
Soffriremo nell’alba,
viso di primavera.
Cesare Pavese (1908-1950)
translated by Roberta L. Payne

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The man who is alone — who has been in prison — returns to prison
every time that he bites into a piece of bread.
In prison he dreamed of the hares that flee
on the winter soil. In the winter fog
the man lives between walls of roads, drinking
cold water and munching on a piece of bread.

One believes that life is born again,
that the breath is calmed, that winter returns
with the odor of wine in the hot inn,
and the good fire, the stable, and suppers. One believes,
until he’s on the inside one believes. You go out one evening,
and the others have caught them, the hares, and they are eating them
in a warm room, gladly. You have to look at them from the windows.

The man who is alone dares to go in to drink a glass
when it’s really freezing, and he contemplates his wine:
its smoky color, its heavy taste.
He bites into his piece of break, which tasted of hare
in prison, but now it does not taste of bread
nor of anything else. And even the wine does not taste of anything but fog.

The man who is alone thinks back to those fields, content
to know that they have already been ploughed. In the deserted room
he tries, under his breath, to sing. He sees again,
along the embankment, the faded tufts of bare bushes
that in August were green. He whistles to the dog.
And the hare comes out, and they’re not cold any more.


L’uomo solo — che è stato in prigione — ritorna in prigione
ogni volt ache morde in un pezzo di pane.
In prigione sognava le lepri che fuggono
sul terriccio invernale. Nella nebbia d’inverno
l’uomo vive tra muri di strade, bevendo
acqua fredda e mordendo in un pezzo di pane.

Uno credo che dopo rinasca la vita,
che il respire si calmi, che ritorni l’inverno
con l’odore del vino nella calda osteria,
e il buon fuoco, la stalla, e le cene. Unco crede,
fin che è dentro uno crede. Si esce fuori una sera,
e le lepri le han prese e le mangiano al caldo
gli altri, allegri. Biscona guardarli dai vetri.

L’uomo solo osa entrare per bere un bicchiere
quando proprio si gela, e contempla il suo vino:
il colore fumoso, il sapore pesante.
Morde il pezzo di pane, che sapeva di leper
in prigione, ma adesso non sa più di pane
nè di nulla. E anche il vino non sa che di nebbia.

L’uomo solo ripensa a quei campi, contento
di saperli già arati. Nella sala deserta
sottovoce si prova a cantare. Rivede
lungo l’argine il ciuffo di rovi spogliati
che in agosto fu verde. Dà un fischio all cagna.
E compare le leper e non hanno più freddo.
Cesare Pavese (1908-1950)
translated by Roberta L. Payne

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Diana, Waking Up

The scattered wind sparkles among the vapors
of the plain, the mountain laughs rare,
being covered with light, glitters go out
from the water, what dearer news?

It’s time to get on up, to live
purely. Look — a smile flies
in the mirrors, on the open panes a shudder,
a sound returns to confuse the ears.

Diana, risveglio

Il vento sparso luccica tra i fumi
della pianura, il monte ride rara
illuminandosi, escono barlumi
dall’acqua, quale messaggio più caro?

È tempo di levarsi su, di vivere
puramente. Ecco vola negli specchi
un sorriso, sui vetri aperti un brivido,
torna un suono a confordere gli orecchi.

Mario Luzi (1914-2005)
translated by Roberta L. Payne

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